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Outdoor smoking rules tighten in Glendale

November 01, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

The city of Glendale is a step closer to requiring businesses, hotels, car dealerships, shopping malls and multi-unit housing complexes to buy a $198 license, and pay a $50 annual fee to renew it, to have outdoor smoking areas.

Earlier this year, the council banned smoking in all new multi-unit buildings, tweaked smoking rules for outdoor dining at restaurants, and created a rule permitting people to individually sue violators of the city’s smoking laws in civil court.

While the projects now under construction or in the pipeline in downtown Glendale, estimated to bring roughly 2,000 new units to the city, won’t be allowed to have any smoking areas, owners of older multi-unit buildings can apply under the proposed program to license their outdoor smoking areas, said Philippe Eskandar, a city program specialist.

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Enforcement of smoking rules, which Glendale has been refining since 2008, has been a difficult task, but officials say that by requiring smoking-area licenses, officials can more efficiently ensure the rules are being followed. Glendale has banned smoking in indoor common areas of multi-unit buildings and on patios for several years, but it has never managed outdoor smoking areas.

“It makes the enforcement considerably tighter than what it is,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa.

As part of the planned licensing process, which will be considered for final approval from the City Council on Tuesday, a city employee would inspect a proposed smoking area and ensure it follows specific rules. In addition, businesses and multi-unit complexes would have to post a site map showing the locations of their smoking areas.

“There’s a lot of confusion in apartment buildings about where people are and aren’t allowed to smoke,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman. “This will give some clarity to people, both customers and residents and business owners.”

But Councilman Zareh Sinanyan questioned whether officials could really keep track of violators.

“The enforcement is going to be problematic,” he said.

Still, most of the City Council supported the licensing when the ordinance was introduced this week. The council is set to take a roll call vote on the resolution on Tuesday. If it passes, the ordinance will take effect in 30 days, but Community Development Director Hassan Haghani said businesses will have a grace period to apply for the licenses. How long that grace period will last has yet to be determined, he said.

Ara Kalfayan, owner of Phoenicia restaurant, which has one of the largest outdoor dining areas in Glendale, called the fee reasonable, but Kevin Aksacki, owner of Gaucho’s Village, said he was tired of city fees. 

“Every day they come up with fees and fees and fees. The economy is still suffering,” Aksacki said.

Although he disliked the fee, he said he’d still pay it in order to keep providing hookah at his restaurant.

According to the proposed ordinance, the fee could change annually. 

Smokers can sit in 25% of outdoor dining areas that are less than 2,000 square feet, 50% of spaces between 2,000 and 5,000 square feet and 66% of any larger open-air dining spots. According to the proposed licensing rules, the outdoor smoking area at a restaurant would have to be clearly separated by rope, plants or other demarcations and the smoking section would have to be 15 feet from tables and chairs in the non-smoking area. 

As for multi-unit buildings, a licensed smoking area must be less than 40 square feet and at least 20 feet away from a non-smoking rental unit and an outdoor area that a child primarily uses, including pools. Such areas must be marked by clear signs. 

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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